Restaurants Can Now Earn COVID Safety Certification

Texas Restaurant Promise Certification Program

How do you know your favorite restaurants and watering holes are doing everything in their power to protect guests from contracting COVID19?

You don’t; but thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Restaurant Association has partnered with Dallas College, rebranded but formerly known as Dallas County Community College, to provide training and inspections for restaurant employees and outlets to earn a Texas Restaurants Promise COVID Certification. This collaboration is the first of its kind in the United States. The grant supports the development of training protocols and operational standards, five-course online employee training sessions, testing, inspections and follow-up audits using a certified third-party agency experienced in hospitality health and hygiene

Since the start of the pandemic in March, the Texas economy has taken a massive hit from the hospitality sector alone, 700,000 jobs lost and $5 billion in revenues evaporated. Aaron Demerson, Director of the Office of Employer Initiatives for the Texas Workforce Commission said in the program launch held online Wednesday that the TWC has processed three million unemployment claims in just three months, which is the same number of claims the agency would process in three years in pre-COVID19 times.  The TWC and Texas Restaurant Association share the goal to safely get restaurants open and employees back to work and provide a mechanism for guests to gain confidence and start dining out again.

The online training will be administered by El Centro College’s Culinary, Pastry and Hospitality school, a well-known and respected culinary and work force development school based in Dallas. First online classes are set to begin June 25, the entire five-course program should be completed in five weeks.  A Closer Look, the third-party mystery shopping company will then assign “field ambassadors” to covertly inspect the restaurants whose employees have participated in the training. These secret shoppers will provide immediate feedback to the owners to allow them to identify the continued risks and address and correct them or to validate their implementation of the health and safety protocols.  Restaurants will receive four assessments within 30 days of the completion of the training and, if they pass, they will have a Texas Restaurant Promise Certified and Verified decal posted in the window of the establishment.

The grant provides free training for 2,500 employees from 500 establishments in Texas.  Training is currently available in English with Spanish and Vietnamese language courses launching soon. So, what if you don’t see the decal? That doesn’t necessarily mean the restaurant isn’t doing everything in their power to keep employees and guests safe and healthy. Do your research before you dine out and call the restaurant with any questions you have.  Yelp and other online review platforms are the bane of the restaurant business in the best of times, but, in today’s landscape, one dissatisfied guest can destroy a brand. Now is the time for restaurants to solicit direct, honest feedback from guests and for guests to help by providing constructive feedback in return.

We all want a return to normalcy.  We yearn for the spontaneous dinners out with friends, date nights, girls’ nights out and parties.  For that to happen, employers, employees and guests must be safe.  Everyone has an obligation to follow the policies and procedures that have been thoughtfully put forth by experts.  Texas is fortunate, indeed, to have the visionary leaders from the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Restaurant Association, Dallas College, the Dallas Citizen’s Council and A Closer Look to come together so quickly to create the COVID Restaurant Certification.

Kersten Rettig

Kersten Rettig is an eater, drinker, cooker, writer and former restaurant owner with a deep affection for all things food and beverage related. The Park Cities resident has a food blog and Instagram called The Kickshaw Papers. Follow her @KickshawPapers.

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